Many of us know that medical marijuana can help millions of patients suffering from a variety of diseases and ailments, especially epileptic seizures. Strains and concentrates that are high in CBD are increasingly being used to reduce or manage the number of debilitating seizures that plague sufferers of epilepsy and Dravet’s syndrome. But human beings may not be the only ones who benefit from cannabinoid therapy: pets are starting to receive high CBD treatment, too.
An estimated 1-5% of all dogs can suffer from either symptomatic or idiopathic seizures. Symptomatic seizures are typically caused by abnormalities that exist inside or outside of the brain (e.g., encephalitis, head trauma, metabolic health problems, lead poisoning).
Idiopathic epilepsy, however, has no underlying cause and may be genetic. Breeds that are prone to inherit symptomatic seizures include beagles, German shepherds, Keeshonds, Belgian shepherds, dachshunds, Hungarian Viszlas, English springer spaniels, Irish wolfhounds, collies, and border dogs. Additional breeds can have a high incidence of seizure disorders, namely golden retrievers, Irish setters, Saint Bernards, American cocker spaniels, wirehaired fox terriers, Alaskan malamutes, Siberian huskies, Welsh springer spaniels, Labrador retrievers, miniature schnauzers, mastiffs, boxers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, and poodles.
Dogs that suffer from epileptic seizures are commonly prescribed phenobarbital, a medication commonly used to treat seizures. While it’s recommended by the World Health Organization to treat certain types of epilepsy in developing countries, it can carry some serious side effects in both humans and pets, including lethargy, increased appetite, dizziness, confusion, and long-term liver damage.
More companies are releasing dog-specific CBD formulations derived from hemp, and many pet owners who are wary of these side effects are exploring CBD as an alternative therapy option. Despite the increased interest in pet-specific CBD therapy, however, the idea of treating an animal with hemp-derived cannabinoids is still considered radical to many veterinarians and animal lovers. Even here in the progressive and cannabis-friendly state of Washington, the issue was met with a spectrum of reactions ranging from curious to outraged. We reached out to a number of veterinarians in an attempt to discuss CBD treatment for pets, but many didn’t know what CBD was and quickly disengaged as soon as the words “a non-psychotropic chemical constituent of cannabis or hemp” were uttered. Another sounded completely taken aback, confusing CBD consumption with “feeding an animal marijuana.”
It’s clear that veterinarians need to be educated on the medicinal properties that cannabis and CBD can potentially provide to animals, but we need more research on the subject, too. While many dog owners attest that their furry friends’ conditions were improved with CBD treatment, anyone considering treating their pet with cannabinoids should do so under the guidance of a knowledgeable veterinarian who can make informed yet cautious recommendations that are both safe and beneficial to the pet. These types of medicines are still in their infancy and we have a lot more to learn about their efficacy and risks. However, it’s truly exciting to witness a frontier of therapeutic options possibly open up that can improve our beloved pets’ quality of life.